Post Ebola Agricultural Recovery Program in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea: Seed Support Intervention by CORAF/WECARD and Partners
Economic and Social Impact of the Ebola Epidemic: The initial 2015 estimates for economic growth in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were 4.3%, 6.8% and 8.9% respectively. The growth projections dropped to -0.2%, 3% and -2.0% after the Ebola outbreak. Recent World Bank Group estimates have projected the 2015 GDP losses for the three countries to be almost $2.2 billion. The human face of the economic disaster is reflected in the data. By August 2015, over 28, 000 people had been infected and 40% (11,290)had died.
The Food Insecure:The three countries are ranked among the poorest in the world, and according to FAO, suffered from chronic food insecurity before Ebola, withthe number of food insecure people estimated to be 1.6 million. With the advent of the virus outbreak, food insecurity has increased tremendously. In Guinea,rice and corn production reduced by 20 and 25% respectively, and coupled with a reduction in importations, resulted in 1.2 million Guineans experiencing food insecurity. Nine out of every 10 Liberian households and two-thirds of Sierra Leonean households interviewed cited food security as a major concernas a result of the outbreak.Seeds saved by farmers for planting hadbeen consumed by farm families due to the shortage of food, coupled with the uncertainty of surviving the epidemic. There is alsoan acuteshortage in agricultural laborforcewhich hasfurther exacerbated the food situation.
Regional Response to the Food Insecurity Crises:The Ebola crisis has taken a heavy toll on the agriculture and food sectors in all three countries. While external food assistance will be needed, ECOWAS and the leadership of the affected countries acknowledged the need to mobilize resources to jump-start agriculture production. Access to seeds was identified as a priority input to save the 2015 planting season which runs from April to August 2015.
CORAF/WECARD, using its World Bank funded West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (WAAPP), and the USAID funded West Africa Seed Program (WASP) and AfricaRice coordinated all the actions at the regional level. CORAF/WECARD developed procurement plans from eight countries, needs assessments, sourcing and worked with AfricaRice (CGIAR Centre) for multiplication of parental rice seeds and organized the timely distribution of seeds and fertilizers. The CORAF/WECARD led effort was complemented with support from ECOWAS, World Bank, African Development Bank USAID, AfricaRice, Private Sector, and Ministries of Agriculture from 13 countries. On an unprecedented regional delivery schedule, over 5,000 tons of seeds have been distributed to beneficiaries for planting in the current cropping season.
The outcome: At the end of the current season, about 8,000 tons of additional certified seeds are expected to be produced to cover more beneficiaries in 2016. Within two years, the initiative is expected to directly cover 600,000 farmers, which will lead to the production of 2 Million MT of paddy rice.
Presently, about 240,000 beneficiaries, (55% of the total are women; 50% total again are youth), received rice, maize and cowpea seeds to cover 110,000 ha. Harvesting has started. The new varieties supplied originated from AfricaRice and IITA are resistant to stresses, and yield at least 3-4 times more than the older varieties used in the three countries. The rapid decision and actions taken to timely supply seeds provided hope for the future to the governments and the peoples of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Challenges, Lessons and Perspective:To ensure the free movement of seed trucks, routes were planned in advance and ECOWAS authorized border custom services and control passing to ensure smooth movement of the trucks. The movements of the trucks were monitored in real time using an instant messaging system (SMS), e-mails and telephones, particularly at border crossings. Currently CORAF/WECARD through WASP and WAAPP and AfricaRice are monitoring and supervising crop production of beneficiaries and seed production activities.
Consultants are being recruited per country to do the supervision in the short term while National Seed Specialists will be recruited and trained using existing capacity development modules.This regional effort will save the 2015 planting season in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and potentially keep one million people from going hungry.